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Remote vs. Online: Respecting/Understanding the Difference

Sitting in front of the computer screen for hours at a time is a skill set… ok that might be a stretch but it is not the norm for many of us, so why should students be expected to do it now. In some cases, they aren’t, but some of us think they are. Some of us believe that since our students are no longer meeting face to face and work is accessed online that students need to be at the computer for the entirety of the school day...FALSE. That’s not how education works and more importantly remote learning and an online education course are similar but not the same.

Similar but not the same

Remote learning and an online education course are similar but not the same. Please check with your academic institution to be clear about which one your household is involved in. COVID 19 has brought a lot of things to light, and some of them are our strengths and weaknesses. I’m navigating this experience as both a mother, daughter, and educator, and let me tell you, I’ve had my fair share of tears... At this time, I think our education system is a place that could use some fortification. Earlier in the pandemic, I took a Remote Teaching course and can honestly say that prior to the course I had no idea of how remote teaching differed from online teaching. I offer my experience not as the gospel but as additional information for those who find them as new/continuing educators during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

During the pandemic, educators are expected to cover as much of the required content as possible, we are not expected to instruct for the same number of minutes that would be expected during face-to-face instruction. The amount of content covered in a lesson and its duration can be heavily influenced by the environment. I’ll use it for my teaching experience for example. As a professor, I teach several sections of lecture-based Dance History, and my section of 20 students move a lot faster than my section of 50 plus. As a primary school teacher in a small private school with a class of 15, we were generally able to cover all of our academic content by lunch and use the rest of the day for hands-on exploration and discovery. To give you an idea of a schedule that might work for some of our remote learners, I attached a sample COVID19 work schedule that I found on a Facebook post

Credit: A Phillips

Numerous academic institutions have switched to remote instruction. Remote differs from online teaching (remember to you ask your institution which model they are using.) Remote teaching (in our current situation) is an immediate emergency response to a health crisis therefore differs from Online instruction. Online Education is planned for virtual instruction to be offered for a specific time. Think about it this way, when a student registers for an online course they go into the agreement knowing exactly what technology is a need and are required to have it prior to the start of the course. When a student registers for an online course, at that moment the student knows the exact duration of the course would not be shortened or extended. There are few that could have predicted this pandemic and how much it would affect our lives and daily schedules, hence remote teaching.

Now lets I focus on remote teaching. This unprecedented heath crisis is why some academic institutions switched to remote teaching. In my recent Remote Teaching Boot Camp two ideas stood out: Asynchronous Content and Condensed Assignments.


Asynchronous means that students can access content like lectures at any time rather than a live virtual meeting. This is not to downgrade the importance of “live “virtual meeting but to give value to the lack of normalcy some of us are experiencing. “Live” virtual meeting can be difficult to attend if a household schedule is challenged with access to high-speed internet, the number of internet-accessible devices, or family obligations. Asynchronous content allows the student to access the content at a time that better suits them.

Condensed Assignments

Think of quality over quantity. Assignment should address as many learning objectives as feasibly possible. An assignment that addresses multiple objectives allows students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of course content and the ability to apply it.

COVID 19 has brought a lot of things to light, and one of them is are strengths and weaknesses in the educational experience of ourselves and others. After evaluating the curriculum provided to some children in our households, some of us make be looking for supplemental resources, as a former preschool and K-12 educator here is one that I recommend:

Remember, while they are similar remote learning and online education are different, reach out to get your institution to find out which one they are following. Having clarity about the system they are using will make it easier to set and follow realistic academic goals and schedules.

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If you have suggestions for other resources or ideas please post them in the comment

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